99 Bottles of Root Beer


My wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary most years by driving a few hours north to my hometown of Ashland, Oregon. Haven’t heard of it?

This foothill town is just over the Oregon state line along Interstate 5. It hosts several hundred Bed and Breakfasts, Southern Oregon University, and the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I moved away from the place when I was just a few years old, but its quirky half college town, half hippie kingdom vibe has enough charm to draw us back each year.

Whenever we visit Ashland, we stay at A Midsummer’s Dream Bed and Breakfast. This is the same cozy place we stayed on our honeymoon, run with plenty of love by innkeeper and cook Lisa. The rooms are beautiful, the breakfast is killer, and — for Pete’s sake — live deer always seem to be resting in the front yard. It also happens that the mattresses are particularly comfy and our awake-at-sunrise children are nowhere in sight. All this means that my bride Erica can sleep in unhindered.

Since I am no good at sleeping in, I jumped out of bed with the sun on our first day there to shoot some pictures of the Ashland streets I used to know. I started walking up the incline street where we were staying and soon noticed a run-down old house. Now, most of the houses nearby were either Sunset magazine bungalows or expensive cabins, and so this particular home stood out. Not only was this house in a state of decay, but it had a large ornate couch sitting in the lawn.

Was this couch some funky decoration? Or was it simply high-class lawn furniture?

I spotted a recycling bin at the front of that house loaded with the telltale brown of empty bottles of beer. Or at least I thought they were beer bottles. For when I got closer, I noticed that these were mostly bottles of root beer. Bottles of different brands of root beer. Sure, the sheer amount of root beer bottles seemed quirky, but hey, maybe I don’t have room to speak as I was the one snapping photos of a recycling bin on an early summer morning!

I would later learn from our innkeeper that this couch is primarily used on lazy afternoons for smoking pot by the local earthy neighbors. Neighbors who are apparently “on the wagon”, and who instead enjoy the many varietals of bottled root beer.

Color me surprised by the “dry” recreational drug users that frequent the couch. Though I suppose I shouldn’t be when I’m visiting Ashland, Oregon.

Hang this photo on your wall

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Who brews your favorite bottles of root beer? And do you or do you not have a front yard couch for drinking it? Answer in the comments.


  • Steve Hadeen 03-30-2015

    Nice perspective and fun story!

    • P.J. Oswald 03-30-2015

      Glad you liked it, Steve. Ashland is a fun place that leaves me with more stories each time I visit. Have you been yourself?

  • Sharon Philipp 03-30-2015

    After driving past Ashland for 36+ years on I5 (Ken being from CA, me from WA and meeting/living in OR for 10 years before moving to CA) we finally stopped and explored Ashland for the first time last year. We thoroughly loved the quirkiness of the place. It is definitely a ‘must do again’ stop on our frequent journeys north and back. Maybe we will find the couch on the lawn and raise a bottle of root beer to our beloved quirky neighbors to the north!

    • P.J. Oswald 03-30-2015

      I’m glad you two got the chance to explore Ashland! If you’re there in the Summertime, we’ll have to join you for root beer on the couch…

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